The 14 Defining Characteristics Of Fascism

Free Inquiry Spring 2003 5-11-3

Note date of the piece: 2003. These characteristics are common among several of the heavy-hitter fascist regimes. A few current examples have been added in parenths after some of the points; there are too many to capture. Add some of your own. Particularly  timely passages have been underlined too.

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays. (Make America Great Again; America First; Build the Wall)
  1. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc. (The Ban; Defunding Planned Parenthood, waterboarding)
  1. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.(Islamophobia, white nationalism, entire campaign run on hate and high emotion)
  1. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
  1. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
  1. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
  1. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
  1. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
  1. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
  1. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
  1. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.(Gutting the National Endowments, no more NPR funding, fed and state levels)
  1. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
  1. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders. (Control of fed lands to states, for privatization and profiteering)
  1. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.


Why Alternative Ed? Is there more to the story?

For those who have been around the block with alternative education this article will be old news, or maybe just an affirmation. But I’m a neophyte and for others like me this information is extremely vital. I know that putting this together has helped me understand. So this is my small offering of sharing information at a level that newbies like me can grasp.

Why is this such a hot issue? Given the current state of traditional education and the economy’s and private sector’s need for a better qualified workforce with the right skills, and given our social unraveling it is painfully clear: we need to fundamentally change our approach to education. Self-directed learning is a more viable means to address issues than traditional education. But there’s more: we need to expand  our scope to “human development”.

Social and economic issues are a nasty one-two punch threatening to demolish our way of life; we’re being torn apart from the inside with apathy and disengagement at one extreme, modern lifestyle stress and related social-emotional health problems at the other. We are disconnected from each other, from the environment around us, from ourselves. We’re in desperate need of social healing and personal alignment. But who has time for all that?

Self-directed learning only addresses part of the problem and only for young people. The way things are imploding there’s no guarantee things we can hold it together long enough to give future generations a shot at making things better.

Proposed: self-directed learning on steroids.  Whole-person / whole-life learning, continuous whole-person growth…human development. Focus on the front end. To assure quality of outputs you must ensure the inputs are good, then pay attention to process itself. Develop the providers of whole-person / whole life learning, pay attention to the human needs of those providers, and engineer a robust process of human development.

One tiny example: there are fitness centers for health nuts and regular people concerned with their physical wellness. How about centers where people can learn about their social-emotional / mental health and do a regular exercise regimen? Think about a place where a person can reconnect, chill, detox from a stressed out lifestyle. How about a full indoor ecosystem (fancy word for greenhouse) to get a few precious moments of real, plant-purified air, walk barefoot in real grass (earthing) and get drunk on the sounds of nature and soothing stroke of solitude?

I could go on and on. But right now this human development stuff is just a Quixote-esque pipedream for me. Something I can do to contribute: critical mass and increasing evidence of success is great PR. We need to spread the gospel of self-directed learning and human development, and convince the powers that be and the general population. Then, of course, implementation support must be readily available. That’s a whole ‘nother story….

So what follows is a primer for self-directed learning based upon Why Our Coercive System of Schooling Should Topple by Peter Gray which outlines four reasons Self-Directed Education will replace forced schooling. They are compelling. Below: the four reasons with a few of my thoughts–please add yours! Later are some article excerpts. Highly recommended: go to the original for the full text.

Four Reasons, and Reflections

  1.  Our coercive schools have become increasingly and evermore obviously harmful to kids. My most compelling personal mission: find some way to impact young peoples’ emotional well-being. Far too many young people are struggling emotionally, medicated and otherwise being “treated”, needing “special” education services, committing suicide. A national epidemic and a disgrace. The education system is to blame to a large degree, the system MUST change.


  1.  Evidence has mounted that children and adolescents can educate themselves remarkably well without coercive schooling. Further, learners show markedly better results than traditionally educated kids. And there is no comparison between the level of social-emotional well-being: fewer kids diagnosed with “learning disabilities”, fewer kids needing meds or other treatment. It hasn’t been measured but it’s a simple causal link: kids are more well-adjusted, less stressed = fewer suicides. It has been proven: SDL CAN be done with great results.
  1.  Self-Directed Education is easier to pursue now than it was in the past. For various reasons,

SDE has struggled to gain broad acceptance. Two biggies: to too many it’s weird and for most it takes too much time. But results and success has led to growing acceptance, even among educators. And more championing centers have emerged, giving parents much-needed support.

It’s becoming MORE ACCEPTABLE and ACCESSIBLE. Not mainstream, but working on it!

  1.  Changes in the economy favor the skills developed by Self-Directed Education. The workplace demands thinkers, not memorizers. It demands employees who can adapt to changes and quickly accept and learn new things. It requires confidence as well as competence. When comparing traditional and SD education, it’s clear that only one system builds those things, while the other may actually discourage them. The “customers” are learners, parents, private sector, society. SDE meets customer needs

Excerpts From the Original

  1.  Our coercive schools have become increasingly and evermore obviously harmful to kids.

…over the years, the school system has intruded increasingly, and ever more disruptively, into children’s and families’ lives.  The length of the school year has increased (it now averages 5 weeks longer than in the 1950s).  The number of years of required attendance has increased.  The amount of homework has increased immensely, especially in elementary schools.  Recesses have been reduced, or even been eliminated…art and music have regularly been dropped from curricula in favor of more time for worksheets and test preparation.  Teachers have been given less freedom to depart from the standard curriculum, and ever-greater pressure has been placed on children to score high on standardized tests.

Children now often spend more time at school and at homework than their parents spend at their full-time jobs…

It can no longer be believed that schooling is a benign experience for children.  The evidence that it induces pathology is overwhelming.  (evidence in original)

  1.  Evidence has mounted that children and adolescents can educate themselves remarkably well without coercive schooling.

Over the last few decades, many thousands of young people, from a wide range of backgrounds, have educated themselves through these means, and follow-up studies have shown that they are doing very well in life. They have had no apparent difficulty being admitted to or adjusting to the demands of traditional higher education, if they choose to pursue it, and they have been successful in the full range of careers that we value in our society.  As adults, they generally report that their experience with Self-Directed Education benefited them by allowing them to develop their own interests (which often turned into careers) and fostering…personal responsibility, initiative, creativity, curiosity, critical thinking, and ability to communicate well with people regardless of status.

… partly because of increased awareness of the success of Self-Directed Education and partly because of the growing toxicity of coercive schools, evermore families are choosing Self-Directed Education for their children.  As more families are choosing it, more others are getting to know people who have chosen it and can see firsthand the evidence of its success.  At some point, when everyone sees the evidence, the gates will open and the coercive schools will begin to empty out.  People will begin to demand that some of the public funds currently spent on coercive schools be spent on learning centers and other facilities that support Self-Directed Education, so all families, regardless of income, will have that option.

  1.  Self-Directed Education is easier to pursue now than it was in the past.

One reason for this lies in the increased numbers of families taking this route and, consequently, the increased acceptability of Self-Directed Education in the culture at large.  The availability of schools and learning centers designed for Self-Directed Education has been increasing, and the number of homeschoolers engaged in Self-Directed Education has likewise been increasing.  As Self-Directed Education becomes more common, as more and more people, including education authorities, know young people taking this route and see their success, the social barriers against it are decreasing.

Another reason: technologyanyone with a computer and Internet connection can access essentially all the world’s information.  Self-directed learners who want to pursue almost any subject can find articles, videos, discussion groups, and even online courses devoted to it.  They can gain information and share thoughts with experts and novices alike, throughout the world, who have interests akin to theirs.  Students in standard schools must study just what the school dictates, in just the ways that the school decides; but self-directed learners can find subjects and means of study that match their own particular interests and styles of learning.  Self-directed learners are not held back by the slow pace of a school course, nor are they rushed ahead when they want more time to think about and delve deeply into any given aspect of the interest they’re pursuing.

  1.  Changes in the economy favor the skills developed by Self-Directed Education.

Because of changes in how we make our livings, the skills exercised by coercive schooling are even less valuable, and those exercised by Self-Directed Education are even more valuable, now than they were in the past.  We don’t need people who can memorize and regurgitate lots of information; we have Google for that.  We don’t need many people to do routine, tedious tasks dictated by others; we have robots for that.

What we do need, and will continue to need, are people who think critically and creatively, innovate, ask and answer questions that nobody else has thought of, and bring moral values and a passionate sense of purpose into the workplace.  These are the kinds of skills that are continuously honed in Self-Directed Education.  In coercive schools, the requirement that everyone follow the same curriculum, motivated by reward and punishment rather than genuine interest, guarantees that most students will not develop passionate interests, deep understanding, or a sense of purpose other than that of making it through the next hoop.

A Few Final Thoughts From Gray

  • “…these are all good reasons why our forced system of schooling should topple soon; but will it topple soon?”   Yes, it will, because it really is reaching the end of the line.
  • Much of the increased odiousness of school has come about precisely because of the increased recognition that our schools are failing.  Stupidly, in recent times we’ve tried to “fix” the schools by doing more of what doesn’t work.  But that can’t go on forever.
  • The revolution will come not because authorities within the coercive school system become enlightened, but because a growing number of families who are victims of that system will realize that they have an option—a good option—and they will take it.

Let’s not just wait for that social change to occur; let’s push it along.  Let’s develop an organized movement to inform people about this option and how they can pursue it.  That’s the purpose of a new nonprofit organization that I’m a part of, the Alliance for Self-Directed Education.  Maybe you’d like to join it.

Human Development Part Three…brain drizzles

This is one of what is (so far) a three-parter, information-sharing among folks working on a project. If you’ve stumbled in from the outside and can decipher where this is going, please join in! In a really big nutshell, this is about a movement to support human potential. Big enough for you?

PART ONE: Don’t Bogart That Vibe, My Friend  A high level look at a Human Development movement that started out as an alternative to traditional education and ballooned. How can we develop children if the parents don’t do the same?

PART TWO: Gonzo Ramblings Continued higher level look, with a little more detail.

PART THREE: brain drizzles.  More specific what’s, how-to’s, what if’s. Potential is unlimited but what is the FOCUS? OR….should there be no focus, let “it” grow organically? The danger: any time you over-structure a movement there’s a risk of formality creeping in that may choke creativity. Structure can lead to power plays and politics….grrrrr.

UNKNOWN, complicated as these things appear to vary state-to-state: are home schooled / un-schooled kids still required to perform against standard tests? What about college entrance exams? Do they still do the ACT / SAT routine?

Here is a solution that is long overdue with crazy college costs and inadequacy of an academic degree to helping people succeed as a happy therefore productive person in their life and in the workplace….

Paradigm Shift! No traditional curriculum can prepare someone for the specific responsibilities of a specific job. That’s what job training is for. A successful new hire must be capable of adapting and learning new things on the fly. They must know how to think, how to learn, how to cope and especially how to interact with others. Employers have finally admitted that “soft” skills are vital and that the talent pool is terribly developed in the social-emotional aspects.

College grads are academically educated but still woefully unprepared for the real world. Employers need to get over their obsession with “college degree required”. We can change that paradigm by showing consistently incredible “grads” who are above the curve in all aspects. Critical thinking skills, high capacity for learning new things, socially and emotionally well-developed and balanced, just “sharp” all the way around. Not to be a crude capitalist, but this is also a marketable differentiation for parents and learners. The Smart Alternative to traditional academics. I have a real aversion to these cutesy word games, but regular folks dig them. These are our deliverables (PLEASE help me with some better words…this is lame!):

Successful and satisfied

Meaningfully connected

Accepting of alternatives

Receptive to learning new things

Total package, whole-person development


Capacity to learn is driven by nimowashe-a Japanese bansai gardening practice, literally preparing the tree for planting-and the right approaches. Strengths-based to unlearning attributes; learner-directed and team / group activities;

Capability to learn comes from resources the learner has free and easy access to: technology, equipment, research materials, software, simulations, games for individual exploration.

Build Understanding and Support! New stuff is often perceived as “weird” and untouchable if it’s not mainstream, and experts tend to protect their expertise turf by cloaking their magic in mystical methods and terms. Not everyone can or will take a chance on doing these things on their own, without someone making it easier with information and assistance. So build a learning lab, awareness / knowledge builder and doing center. Eliminate the airy-fairy pixie dust and replace with liberal doses of WIIFM. Enable people to DO a little at a time through coaching, one-on-one mentoring when needed and workshops for parents and their children.

Prove it works with small successes and build momentum. Nothing delivers recognition, acceptance and growth like success and consistently exceptional results. Expect slow growth, be pleasantly surprised when it takes off. But even so, some people will not or cannot do this on their own. So there must be a solid support network and resources readily available.

Development Centers are adjunct early caregivers, and providers of continued learner development. Centers also provide guidance / information / resources to support DIY parents and other caregivers. Two main points of emphasis: (1) child development and (2) adult education with workshops and resources, open enrollment for parents and other adults not signed on with the center.

A Center is a physical and online resource that supports “whole-person development”…pre-natal through infancy, young learners through adult (all of us!) and seniors. Social / emotional (personal) and physical well-being. These are all elements of one big system, should be served systemically.

DO THE VISION THING….No-Holds-Barred (add attributes, topics, any ideas)

Following are preliminary brain drizzles on some “what” items, just a rough salting of the mine to get things started. NOTE about the following buckets: “Early, Young, Middle, Adult” designations are not age-based! Levels are driven by the capabilities and interests of the individual learner! Last, NO “we can’t do that” allowed at this stage. We can sort out the feasibilities later! Dream!

Early development; Informational

  • Adult workshops: when does consciousness begin? How can we positively impact early awareness? For present and future parents and early caregivers.

Young learners

  • Loose, unstructured exploration, strengths-based, unlearning (identify strengths / interests / natural capabilities)
  • Basic social-emotional skills building. Social skills development, in structured setting (NOTE: employers sing the blues about how lacking in “soft skills” the talent pool is!).

Middle / later

  • Increased levels of S-E learning; civic and social engagement. Academically: sociology, psych, government / civics…even industrial anthropology (the study of workplace group dynamics!)
  • Access to technology=YUGE! State-of-the-industry hardware and software platforms for hands-on experimentation. See “Physical, Facility Features”…How Green Stuff Works
  • Environmental / ecological awareness. Understanding earth’s systemic fragility. Opens the door to science fields, green careers and activism
  • Math and statistics, workplace applications. Lots of experiential stuff, fun learning and hands-on with real workplace stuff (this is kinda my sweet spot and it’s huge for workforce prep)

Adult learners

  • Stress management, coping skills, re-connecting / re-tooling lifestyles. Self-awareness. Mindfulness, everyday relaxation, meditating etc
  • Engagement levers are universal. Provide Big Picture engagement sessions that boost mainstream / private sector buy-in. Whole-person engagement (youth, learner, adult, senior) and whole-life engagement (home / family, school, work, community, society).
  • Promote civic and community activism and volunteerism through increased accessibility. Explore and broker ways to connect.

Physical, Facility Features, Hard Resources

  • Nature Center, indoor / outdoor. Greenhouse ecosystem, healthy environment, lighting and sound, year-round earthing, good air. Compost room inside, organic farm plot, hydroponics (?)
  • Full Solarium with grass …a decompression room, earthing time. Trees, healthy lighting, forest sounds (hell, why not a few birds flying around?! Oh…birds poop! Maybe not so hot an idea….)
  • Green energy (hydro, wind, solar) powers a mini home. Break a model into components & assemble, and a more full-scale, fully functional working model;
  • Compost room, use compost for organic garden plot
  • How Stuff Works…one big area is how does green technology work? Small-scale models to break down, fully functional working model energy producers. GE Energy will get behind this! Wind, water, solar. Program extends to planning, purchase, installation resource / guidance.
  • Application / Implementation Support: information and knowledge is great, especially when it is USED! LEARN about alternative energy, but don’t stop there. Facilitate how to SET UP a system, then guide / coach and advise through the process.

Technology, Learning Aids

  • Top notch a/v, cyber, program access

Special Category: Brain Workouts, backed with exploring brain theory to validate. Our brains are more than a supercomputer, although the human brain is said to have even a greater level of potential processing and storage capability waiting for the switch to flip and the connections to be made. The brain is a muscle where exercises and workout aids are proven to be effective, and a computer too. So we can do cerebral calisthenics as well as learn to “program” our brain to improve its performance.

Mindfulness and other basic, non-threatening, non-weird “meditation / relaxation” techniques.

Music promotes brain capability, as long as it’s the right kind! Rap and metal are not too effective! Baroque is the most effective, for lots of reasons beyond its unobtrusive yet emotion-connecting power.


Noted up-front in Part Three: are home schooled / un-schooled kids still required to perform against standard tests? What about college entrance exams? Do they still do the ACT / SAT routine? In general, what is the legislative / regulatory environment regarding non-traditional education? And, Trump’s nomination for the Dept. of Education head is a proponent of charter, for-profit education. What will the environment become?

Student Loan Bailout Perpetuates the Higher Ed Problem? I heard a piece on NPR November 30th about how the expanded student loan forgiveness program is creating a huge swell in college enrollments. Degree chasers anticipate little relief in the long-term cost outlook, but with the expanded bailout they don’t have to go into hock all their lives for a degree. (  U.S. Expected To Forgive At Least $108 Billion In Student Debt (Nov 30th All Things Considered)

A report released Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office says the U.S. is on track to forgive at least $108 billion in student debt. This is due to the number of people who have enrolled in plans the Obama administration promoted to help borrowers avoid default. The GAO report finds the Education Department also understated the cost of these plans.

Just my opinion–we’re missing the mark. What does higher ed really contribute to productivity and the economy to warrant such a huge investment? We don’t need more people with degrees. We need more people with 21st century skills and the ability to make an immediate contribution to the workplace. What we really need is well-adjusted, personally connected people who are stable and anchored enough to survive a changing workplace and the crazy lifestyle we inflict upon ourselves.

We need to re-examine what we expect out of education, and learning in general…what’s the purpose, what are the goals? Further, HOW are we providing learning? WHY are we still mass-producing bricks in the wall when the factory model is so antiquated? Especially when the customers of that factory model are screaming for something different?

An “unlearned” young person is likely to have their full-strength learning pathways firmly established and S-E development ensures they are well-grounded. Progression into the more skills-based phase (Real-world Prep School) is not set in stone, they can choose to continue on their own path and explore all available options.

A diploma or degree is NOT the ticket to admit the learner into the real world, the job market. It should be mostly irrelevant, a minimal qualifier if any at all. Antidote: early unlearning followed with learner-driven SE development and RWPS to provide maximum strength preparation of high-quality workforce-ready raw material.

Unlearner Proponents Are Highly Individualistic. By its nature unlearning attracts nonconformists, people who rebel against establishment rules, regulations, and academic methods and requirements. “Herding cats” comes to mind when considering the challenge of organizing these uber free spirits. Lack of structure is a key unlearning ingredient, so how can a Center provide a structured approach designed to mainstream unlearning?

GASP! Unlearning is Gonzo: first-person, “me”-centered, free-flowing, rambling, driven by emotion.

That’s all for now…what do you think?

Man’s Search

(from V. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning)

Viktor Frankl relates his experience while surviving the harshness of Auschwitz:

… We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”

     That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

     A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.


For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory….

If Viktor Frankl found such beautiful meaning under Auschwitz conditions, it seems that our own search for meaning can succeed as well.


Eye On the Prize

I’ve been so consumed with election crap and bare-knuckles battling over political issues that it took far too long to realize I’ve lost sight of two of my most important personal values, operating principles, whatever you choose to call them:

  1. People before process. Without solid people, processes fail. Phrased differently…when we lose sight of our humanity we’re nothing but a go-through-the-motions shell.
  2. Focus on the front end, and control the integrity of the production processes.

Following:  a short list for each. Raw, needs your input.

Short List: Solid People (please add!)

  • A mountain of private sector and academic research has pointed out that personal well-being drives performance and achievement, in the workplace and the classroom. Reference “engagement theory”.
  • Social-emotional development: kindness, compassion, understanding and appreciating differences (demographic and belief systems).
  • Civic Savvy / Global Citizenship: globalization, current affairs, why democracy does / doesn’t work, making intelligent decisions; volunteerism / being involved and informed.
  • Responsible consumerism—environmental / save the planet issues
  • Spiritual well-being: purpose, values. Something to believe in. Community, family.

Short List: Focus on the Front End and Processes (this could go on forever! Please add)

Stemming from earliest process control / quality management tenets, fine-tuned by the six sigma community and systems thinkers. Quality of outputs is determined by quality of inputs, and by the consistency and capability of the realization processes.

  • Understand the systemic interactions among the various processes, and the systemic connections among allegedly “local” beliefs, actions and practices. Butterfly effect or ripple effect.
  • Kid development, specifically helping our kids to understand what it means to be human (see #1). Example is a great teacher, and it’s more than parenting at home. We’re all teachers of human values and social norms. Parents need surrogate help from the community and especially the education system.
  • Education reform (another humongous area!). How do humans learn best? What do we need to learn about? Who is best equipped to teach what? (loosen the restrictions on who provides learning in the classroom. We could gain a good deal by utilizing subject matter expert adjunct. And education could use the help!) Why do we focus on “process” stuff and ignore human development?
  • Practice what we preach. It’s not enough to espouse a whole bunch of really cool stuff. Reality has to match or it’s meaningless.
  • Election / political system / democratic integrity (many, many sub-thoughts on this!)
  • Media integrity: people need trustworthy information to make intelligent decisions. When real information is withheld people are easily manipulated and make poor decisions.

That’s a decent start, and it’s plenty from me for now. Please offer your thoughts—am I missing the mark? What else can be added?

And, HOW can we do this stuff?



Reinventing Sesame Street (!!!)

I heard an interview on National Public Radio over the weekend–Erasing Red Ink, Sesame CEO Offers Vision To Preserve Home Of Big Bird The means to achieve that end: kindness and empathy! Google “sesame research on empathy and kindness”…this is a serious effort.

Excerpts below are from

(October 13, 2016) – Parents and teachers in the United States worry that their children are living in an unkind world, that people do not go out of their way to help others, and believe that children need strong social-emotional skills to succeed in life, according to a new survey commissioned by Sesame Workshop called “K is for Kind: A National Survey On Kindness and Kids.”

Nearly three-quarters of parents and almost four-fifths of teachers say they “often” worry the world is an unkind place for children. At the same time, parents and teachers clearly see the importance of having strong social-emotional skills. Almost three-quarters of parents believe it is very important for their child to be accepting of others, to be polite, and to have manners, while about three-quarters of both parents and teachers prioritize kindness over academic achievement. “Getting good grades” was one of the least important attributes for children, with less than half of parents and only about a tenth of teachers describing it as “very important.”

Sesame Workshop CEO, Jeffrey D. Dunn: “This survey confirms our concerns. It is time to have a national conversation about kindness. We hope that this is a first step towards doing that.”

For more information on the survey, visit, and to join the conversation on social media, follow #TeachKindness.



Everybody is a Star

You’re a shining star, no matter who you are

Shining bright to see that you can truly be

What you can truly be.

(Earth, Wind and Fire)

Everybody has a role, everybody has a purpose. Everybody has hopes and dreams. Everybody is a star.

Every. Body.

I just got to spend another day with “special needs” kids at the high school, kids with varying levels of learning issues, autism, downs all the way to profoundly crippling physical challenges. My kind of people.

These kids accept their uniqueness, their challenges and they do the best they can. “Regular” people need to as well. We could stand to learn a good deal from these special people.

Connecting with “special needs” people gives a person a special sense of fulfillment. If you haven’t had the opportunity to reach out, you’re incomplete. It may take a little extra effort, a higher level of patience and understanding sometimes. Are you up to it?

The reward is worth the risk and the effort.


In our community’s schools–small town, 15,000–we’re blessed that the vast majority of our non- challenged kids go out of their way to include our “special” kids. They come into the special needs classrooms in their free times to work with / make an extra connection with the kids and it carries over into the community outside of school. “Mainstreaming” is alive and well here. It’s truly heart-warming to see, I’ve noticed it for years now.

Something I feel our community has been lucky enough to learn and practice needs to be more widespread. So often it’s not a matter of kids being mean or not caring, it’s just that they are unaware. Why don’t schools (AND the WORKPLACE!) expand the meaning of “diversity training” to include generally “special” people? How about “inclusion awareness training”.

Everybody is a star, doesn’t matter who you are (Sly Stone).

Trouble is, when educator / administrators (and too many private sector leaders too!) hear “diversity training” they think about compliance only, taking the narrow view of diversity—treating others equally regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual preference. All important, but there is more to true inclusion–sensitivity to others with any kind of differences, accepting others for who they are and what they’ve been given to work with, realizing everyone has a place. Too many just don’t get it that way!

Awareness and understanding needs to start first with us big kids. And we need to accept our roles as stewards of the younger generation’s attitudes toward special people. For the most part, the kids are doing a great job on their own. You think we should try to catch up?